Teacher must pay £100 to unruly nine-year-old she assaulted

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The Independent Online

A primary school teacher with 20 years' experience was ordered yesterday to do 140 hours of community service and pay £100 compensation to a nine-year-old boy she was convicted of assaulting.

Union leaders reacted angrily to the sentence. Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, claimed it showed how vulnerable teachers were to "the word of one child, uncorroborated by other witnesses". Catherine Brandley, aged 51, a supply teacher from Cheshire, prodded the boy in the chest and pushed him against a wall causing him to bang his head, a court was told. She was suspended after being arrested 10 months ago, and is almost certain to find her career in ruins if she fails to win an appeal.

Mr McAvoy, whose union represented Mrs Brandley, said yesterday: "This case sends an extremely chilling message that teachers are very, very vulnerable. It could ruin her career." He said her conviction on the word of a child was "extremely worrying".

Mrs Brandley's union representative, Andy Kent, added: "Teachers are allowed by law to use physical restraint and this case may make a teacher think twice before using a physical restraint which would be in the interests of the rest of the class. The case could and should have been properly dealt with through internal procedures, but Mrs Brandley has had to face 10 months of going through the courts and has to face several more months as her appeal is processed."

Magistrates in Crewe were told the boy had been firing staples from a staple gun and shouting about going to the lavatory. Mrs Brandley, who had been at the school in Sandbach, Cheshire, for five days, tried to settle him but lost her temper when he refused to stand still, the court was told. The prosecution said she grabbed him by the collar, took him out of class and pushed him against a wall, causing him to bang his head. His mother told the court: "He came in [from school] upset and distressed. He was sobbing and breathless."

The mother said that at a later meeting with the deputy head, Mrs Brandley had denied hitting or pushing her son but admitted threatening and prodding him. "She said she wanted to put the fear of God into him and that he would be frightened of her," she said. "She was aggressive with me. I was shocked by the admission and the demeanour that she had when she told me."

Mrs Brandley, who denied common assault, said she took the boy out of class to speak to him. "I wanted to point out that his behaviour had been very unacceptable," she said. "I got hold of his shirt and pulled him off the chair. I told him I wanted to talk to him. I honestly believe I acted in a professional manner although looking back I may have made a mistake." She denied the boy had hit his head against a wall.

The magistrates who ordered Mrs Brandley to pay the pupil compensation as well as sentencing her to the community service, said she should also contribute £750 towards the prosecution costs.